The Most Famous Athletes of All Time

The most famous athletes are never forgotten - neither across time nor places. They're famous the world over, thanks to their achievements and skills.
The Most Famous Athletes of All Time

Last update: 17 February, 2020

It doesn’t matter how old you are. It doesn’t matter how much you love sports. You’ll probably know of these sports personalities. This article will discuss the most famous athletes of all time.

The most famous athletes of all time

Maybe you know them for their world records, Olympic performances, or their time playing for important leagues. It could be that you just remember one or two great feats or their medals. Whatever the case may be, these are the most famous sports figures in history:

1- Pele

Many people say he’s the greatest soccer player of all time. His official name is Edson Arantes do Nascimento. He was born in 1940 and became a star player with Santos de Brazil as well as on the Brazilian National Football team.

He took multiple records while wearing the green and yellow jersey. For example, he was the youngest player ever to participate in a world cup (at 17). He’s also the person who’s played at this event the most times (four times between 1958 and 1970). Finally, he’s the soccer player who’s scored the most goals at World Cups (12).

Pele with the new york cosmos.

He played most of his career – almost 20 years – in the same team. In 1977, he retired with the New York Cosmos with almost 700 goals to his name.

2. Muhammad Ali

Here’s another athlete on our list who was born with a different name from the one we remember him by. In this case, Cassius Clay Jr. changed his name to Muhammad Ali. Many people consider this boxer from Kentucky to be the best of all times. And he wasn’t just well-known from his exploits in the ring. In his time he also had a great influence on the struggle for the rights of African Americans.

Ali started to gain popularity in 1960 when he won a medal at the Olympic Games in Rome. That same year he made his professional debut. By the time he retired in 1981, he had 61 fights, of which he won 56 of them and lost the other five. Thirty-seven of those victories were by knockout. He kept the same trainer throughout his whole life – Angelo Dundee.

Muhammad Ali knocking someone down.
Image: AS USA

3- Michael Jordan

No one can say they don’t know the best basketball player of all time. Michael Jordan was born in 1963 and he was a key player in the string of victories of the NBA’s Chicago Bulls. He played with them for 13 seasons and won six titles with this team.

Michael Jordan who is one of the most famous athletes celebrating a victory.

Some other Air Jordan records: He had an average of 30.1 points per match. Jordan was the highest scorer of the season, ten times. He was named among the top five players of the year on ten occasions as well. Let’s not forget they called him the most valuable player in a final six times. Jordan retired from the Washington Wizards in 2003.

4. David Beckham is one of the most famous athletes of all time and a soccer player

This English ex-football player was born in 1975 in London. He started his career with Manchester United at the age of 17. The “Spice Boy” became a part of the galactic team, Real Madrid. He also played with the Los Angeles Galaxy and was on AC Milan twice. Beckham finished his career with Paris Saint Germain in 2013.

David Beckham kicking a soccer ball.
Image: Sportscasting.

Aside from that this famous player was on the English national team’s roster between 1998 and 2008. With this team, he participated in three World Cups. Those were 1998, 2002, and 2006 editions. He scored goals thrice among these tournaments – one per appearance.

5- Michael Schumacher – one of the most famous athletes in racing

Schumacher’s name is synonymous with auto racing, Formula One, and Ferrari. This German driver was born in 1969 and he’s won seven world F1 championships. He won five of these under the coat of arms with the little horse and the rest with Benetton.

Michael Schumacher who is one of the most famous athletes raising his arms to celebrate.

Not only that, but “The Kaiser” is the racer with the most points in the history of Formula 1 (at 3,890). He also holds 308 grand prizes, has been on the podium 155 times, and has gotten 91 victories, 77 fastest laps, and 68 pole positions.

6. Diego Maradona

Here is another one of the most famous athletes in history who’s also a soccer player. Experts also consider him to be one of the best representatives of his sport in all its history. Diego Maradona was born in Argentina in 1960. He started out on the Argentinos Juniors team at the age of 16. Afterward, he would go on to play with the Boca Juniors, Barcelona, Napoli, Sevilla, and Newell’s. He would end his career with the Xeneize club in 1997.

Diego maradona who is one of the most famous athletes of all time upset about something.

He was also a world championship on the Argentine national team in 1986 and runner up in 1990. He’s currently a coach with the Gimnasia de La Plata club in his own country. This comes after a career with other teams in the United Arab Emirates and Mexico as well as with the blue and whites.

To finish up our ranking of the most famous athletes of all time, we’ll also give some honorable mentions. There’s the golfer Tiger Woods, the swimmer Michael Phelps, and the soccer players Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.